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Sunday, May 26, 2024

An open apology letter to Lady Gaga

Gaga’s album, “The Fame Monster,” will never be topped, and here’s why

Dearest Mother Monster (aka Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, or Lady Gaga), 

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of my letter, I just need to tell you that I’ve loved you for so much of my life, it is almost scary—13 years to be exact. I am here as a dedicated little monster (paws up) to regretfully inform you that I do not believe it is possible for you to top the masterpiece that is “The Fame Monster (Deluxe Edition),” your sophomore album released in November 2009. 

First, I’ll lay out the facts. While this album is admittedly an add-on to your debut album, “The Fame,” it is still entirely its own piece of pure art with its eight additional songs and one remix of the previously released “Bad Romance.” Not only did this album earn you your fourth Grammy, for “Best Pop Vocal Album,” but it was the best-selling album as a re-release in 2010. Needless to say, I have ample evidence to back up my claim that this is the best album ever created. (For legal reasons, I am employing the use of hyperbole to get my point across.) And Gaga, I know, you know, we all know that you won’t stop creating music (it’s your job) and trying to grow and outdo yourself as an artist, and I don’t think you should stop—but it just might not be possible to create any one album better than “The Fame Monster.” 

I hate to do this, but I am going to compare your six or seven albums (depending on if we want to count “A Star is Born”) following “The Fame Monster” to fully illustrate this one album’s supremacy over all the others in your discography. 

First up, there’s “Born This Way,” and while I love the drama of it—from the outrage the single “Judas” caused, especially after releasing it and the music video on Easter weekend—this album didn’t do anything more than “The Fame Monster” had already done, besides make many conservative groups hate you more than they already did.

Next, we have “ARTPOP,” and quite honestly Gaga, I don’t really want to get into this one—not that it is exactly a bad album, but we all know it doesn’t even come close to “The Fame Monster.” You tried out experimental club and new age music, and it was clear it wasn’t the right fit, except I will say the song “Donatella” is thoroughly enjoyable (but that’s not saying much from a 14-track album). I’d say the direct predecessor to “ARTPOP” (that somehow did it better) from “The Fame Monster” would be the song “Teeth,” which has a bit of talking and could be classified as conceptual like “ARTPOP” because I don’t understand the meaning behind it, but I like the feeling of the song. 

In all honesty, I would prefer to sweep “Cheek to Cheek” (with Tony Bennett, aka my grandma’s favorite singer) as well as the soundtrack album “A Star Is Born” under the rug as they are not entirely yours and they just aren’t you. It’s almost a chore to attempt to sit through all of “Cheek to Cheek” as it feels almost as long as Tony Bennett is old. As far as “A Star Is Born” goes, I watched the movie (for you), I cried and I only really need “Shallow” (and maybe “Always Remember Us This Way” if I’m being completely transparent) to sing along to those incredible vocalizations; the rest I can do without or just watch the movie again. For these two “albums,” I feel no need to compare them to “The Fame Monster” as it’s clear to see they’re not even in the same league. 

I must say your brave dabble in country music, “Joanne,” took some time to grow on me. While this departure from conceptual pop music came as a surprise to many, Gaga, believe me when I tell you I was prepared. Hints of the rock-fused passion of this album are especially apparent in the song “Brown Eyes” from “The Fame Monster”—a beautiful guitar- and piano-heavy ballad for a lost lover. Perhaps due to your maturity when making “Joanne,” or simply the time in which it was made, there are a few songs off the album that might make someone think, “Hah cool, feminism,” something we definitely cannot say about “The Fame Monster.” For those wondering, the primary “#feminism” songs off this album are “Grigio Girls,” “Hey Girl” featuring Florence Welch, “Joanne” and some may argue for “Come to Mama.” Basically, this album is beautiful even though I didn’t fully appreciate it when it came out in 2016 and yet, it still doesn’t reach the creative genius that is “The Fame Monster.” This is mainly because “Joanne” is inherently restricted by being your “country album,” whereas “The Fame Monster” is anything and everything. 

It’s a long time coming but we’ve made it to “Chromatica,” and yet again, it can’t compete. Gaga, this one really hurt me because with all the promotion for it and both of the amazing singles, “Stupid Love” and “Rain on Me” with Ariana Grande, I was really hoping for a pop magnum opus. Maybe this one is slightly my fault, building it up so high and with “The Fame Monster” admittedly as my frame of reference. This is in no way saying “Chromatica” is not good, because I can wholeheartedly say I like at least half the songs, and I definitely thoroughly enjoy about five of the 16, but this futuristic return to your roots of dance-pop didn’t go above and beyond.

Perhaps the one part of “Chromatica” that competes with “The Fame Monster” is its visuals. Both albums come with incredible music videos, something so many pop artists these days sadly neglect, and those from “Chromatica” clearly had some incredibly high production values with full-blown CGI in “Rain on Me” and incredible sets and wardrobes in “911.” This is definitely due in part to your now being worth about $320 million, most likely with boundless budgets for things like music videos in comparison to the days of “The Fame Monster.” Yet, those videos still hold up today as some of the best music video rabbit holes to dive down anytime I find myself on YouTube. Need I remind the masses of the masterpiece that is the video for “Telephone” featuring Beyoncé? Honestly, no amount of CGI or fancy set design can beat the power that music video holds. Not to mention that your music video for “Paparazzi” essentially kickstarted the actor Alexander Skarsgård’s career. All in all, “Chromatica” attempted to do the impossible (go toe to toe with “The Fame Monster”) and fell short. 

Gaga, I’m sorry to rag on you like this, but you (and everyone else in the world) needed to know the scope of “The Fame Monster”’s excellence and how it will always stay on top. There’s nothing else I can say besides thank you, and I hope you take solace in the fact that I will never stop streaming that album—hopefully, someone will go ahead and listen to it after reading this and understand everything I’ve been saying. 


Your biggest fan and critic

Written by: Angie Cummings — arts@theaggie.org


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